Over the last few years, Thai food has become “the new black” in the dining world. Sure, most of us have eaten Pad Thai at the corner restaurant. But is that truly authentic Thai cuisine? It does owe its roots to traditional Thai food, but like other Asian cuisines before it, it has become Westernized.
If you’re planning a trip to Thailand — and assuming you’re an adventurous eater who enjoys spicy and exotic Asian foods — there are a number of classic and authentic Thai dishes you should absolutely search out.
Here are seven we suggest looking for:
Gaeng Keow Wan Gai (Green Curry Chicken)
Authentic Thai food is very often based on a curry of some sort. Gang Keow Wan is one of the country’s most popular curried soups, and is considered a “comfort” go-to food for many Thais.
Cooked around a green curry paste for the base, traditional Thia spices and ingredients like lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves are added in along with eggplant and chicken.
Gang Keow Wan can be found at restaurants and street vendor stands throughout the country, with each region adding its own unique twist to this Thai standard.
Gai Pad Pongali (Thai Chicken Yellow Egg Curry)
Often served over steamed rice, Gai Pad Pongali is unique in Thai cuisine because an egg is whipped up into the dishes’ mixture of onions, tomatoes, peppers, lemongrass, dried peppers, and chicken or shellfish, so that it curdles and creates a sticky pastiche. Authentic Gai Pad Pongali is typically served with a heavy side of parsley as garnish.
Jim Jum (Thai Hot Pot)
Jim Jum is a dish best enjoyed with friends. Served in a traditional Thai clay pot, Jim Jum is a mixture of steamed pork and liver, morning glory, beat eggs, glass noodles, and the quintessential Thai basil. Share this dish with silver spoons and ladle it over steamed rice for an authentic, shared Thai meal.
Kao Na Phet (Duck Over Rice)
Many Asian cuisines feature duck heavily in their traditional meals. Kao Na Phet uses duck as the base over which the dish is prepared.
Served using plates instead of bowls, the roasted duck parts are placed over steamed rice along with spicy dried peppers, and then the broth from the duck preparation is labeled onto the melange. The lean protein of the duck makes this one of the healthiest Thai dishes.
Moo Dad Diew (Thai Pork Jerky)
Moo Dad Diew is a popular street food that can found nearly everywhere in Thailand.
To make the jerky, strips of deep fried pork are marinated in a sweet soy sauce, and are then hung on lines to allow the pork to soak in the sauce.
Often wrapped in rice paper when served on the street, you can spot vendors selling Moo Dad Diew by looking for the ever-present bottle of nam jim jaew, a chili pepper sauce that adds a spicy and savory taste to the jerky.
Yam Khor Moo Yang (Grilled Pork Neck)
Get ready for a meat salad with the traditional Thai dish known as Yam Khor Moo Yang. Sliced pork cutlets are mixed with lemon juice to make this dish. Spicy chilies are then mixed into the salad along with onions, and sliced fruit . This is a heavy, meat-rich meal, so plan on having it for dinner — as opposed to lunch — after a long day of walking and sightseeing.
Kao Mok Gai (Spicy Chicken in Rice)
This traditional Thai meal owes its roots to old Siam. Prepared with chicken cooked with rice and saffron, turmeric, lemongrass and bay leaves, this is a dish that is light and fruity. Served with cooked cucumbers, this is a must-try when in Thailand.
Various parts of the country add their own regional specialties to the dish, sometimes using fish instead of chicken, or even brined pork.
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